There’s no scientific basis for the alarming message in Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth, and people should treat the film as a “lawyer’s brief” for one side of the global warming debate, Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told an Asheville crowd Wednesday.
“This movie is a one-sided presentation of global warming science, climate economics, climate policy,” said Lewis. More than 170 people at a John Locke Foundation luncheon heard Lewis expose flaws in the former vice president’s movie. “It is a computer-enhanced lawyer’s brief for climate alarmism and energy rationing. As far as the science part, it’s all gloom and doom, we’re-all-going-to-die, and there’s really no scientific basis for that kind of alarmism.”
“Global warming is happening,” said Lewis, who has published a “skeptic’s guide” to the film. “Human beings are contributing to it. But the rate of warming is constant. It’s modest. We can reasonably expect a warming in the 21st century only at the low end of the range projected by a United Nations panel. The alleged impacts of global warming are just blown way out of proportion in the movie.”
Gore chooses pictures and statistics carefully to give viewers a false impression of the dangers of global warming, Lewis said. “You see scene after scene of devastation from hurricanes, floods, droughts — all kinds of extreme weather events,” Lewis said. “And you get the impression that we’re living in a more dangerous world, that it’s almost perilous to walk out your door in the morning because you might get clobbered by a tornado or a flood or hailstones or something.
“But what people really care about when they think about extreme weather is how dangerous is this to human life, or at least that’s the foremost concern,” he added. “But mortality rates and even aggregate mortality have declined dramatically since the 1920s – in other words, as the world has warmed.”
Viewers cannot find that nugget of truth in An Inconvenient Truth, but they can find some stretching of the truth, Lewis said. “He says, ‘A new scientific study shows that, for the first time, polar bears have been drowning in significant numbers,’” Lewis said in quoting Gore’s movie. “I found the study. The study found four drowned polar bears in one month of one year after an abrupt windstorm. ‘Have been drowning’ — that suggests an ongoing problem. ‘Significant numbers’ suggests that it’s enough to affect the overall population dynamic. That’s an exaggeration.”
It’s not the worst exaggeration, Lewis said. “Al Gore tries to blame Hurricane Katrina on global warming, which is sheer demagoguery,” he said. “At most, global warming might be increasing the average wind speed of hurricanes by a few percent. But Hurricane Katrina was not even a Category Five storm when it hit New Orleans. It wasn’t because of any extra oomph that global warming might have given Katrina that so many people died and so many billions of dollars in property were destroyed. It was because the federal government basically failed over several decades to build adequate flood defenses for New Orleans and also because of various federal policies. People are now living in areas where they wouldn’t live otherwise if they only had private insurance to set them right if natural disasters occur.”
Lewis needed more than 50 minutes to make his case, citing Gore’s mistakes in dealing with evidence about the snows of Kilimanjaro; ice sheets in Greenland; rain in Mumbai, India; and even caterpillar hatching seasons in the Netherlands.
“Al Gore says global warming is a moral issue, but I really think for him it’s a moralizing issue,” Lewis said. “It’s a way he is able to impute guilt and responsibility into the inanimate workings of nature. So if there’s anything out there you don’t like happening — like Katrina — you can blame somebody. You can hold Bush responsible for not supporting the Kyoto Protocol.”
Gore ignores more than just balanced climate science, Lewis said. One subject that gets no attention in the film is potential harm from global warming reduction goals tied to the Kyoto agreement. “One of the things that he never considers in the film is the abysmal cost-benefit ratio of policies like Kyoto,” Lewis said. “Kyoto is just all cost for no benefit.”
The Kyoto global warming reduction goals could cost trillions of dollars and provide almost no relief, Lewis said. “I think we need real insurance, not phony insurance,” he said. “The Kyoto Protocol to me is all premium and no coverage.”
The former vice president’s exaggerations, misstatements, and hype damage the debate about global warming, Lewis said. “My reading of the science is it’s very likely that much of the warming of the past 30 years is due to greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “But I think it’s a long stretch from that to conclude that the world is coming to an end, that the ice sheets are in danger of collapsing and disintegrating in our lifetimes or in the lifetimes of our children or even their great-grandchildren. It also just seems to me a real stretch to claim that global warming is going to make any big difference in things like malaria or hurricanes.
“It’s all the sci-fi trappings that the basic theory is decorated with and then the political uses that are made of it that I object to.”
Mitch Kokai is an associate editor of Carolina Journal.